If you’re a fan of the Atlanta Braves then the past few days I’m sure have been very stressful to say the least. And I’m sure as you start looking at the next match up you’re worried that this isn’t going to get any easier but luckily you’d be wrong if that’s your assumption. After a 3 game set with the Dodgers, 3 with the Nationals that we’re in the midst of right now and then a 4 game set against the Giants it seems as if this schedule is impossible to navigate.
Well here’s the good news. It gets MUCH easier from here. Once we conclude the series against the Giants in San Francisco we will see a drastic change in our schedule strength similar to a severe change in whether when it goes from being 95 degrees down to 70 in just a few days.
The Braves will have 34 remaining games after the Giants series. The final stretch of the season will begin on the road in San Diego on Monday. With the first pitch of that game comes relief. The Braves will play 28 of their final 34 games against below .500 ball clubs. And only 6 games against those with winning records. The schedule stacks up like this.
@ Padres (3 games) 54-70 record
@ Phillies (3 games) 57-65 record
vs Rockies (4 games) 47-73 record
@ Mets (3 games) 57-65 record
@ Brewers (3 games) 55-66 record
vs Nationals (3 games) 76-46 record
@ Marlins ( 3 games) 56-67 record
@ Phillies ( 3 games) 57-65 record
vs Marlins (3 games) 56-67 record
vs Mets ( 3 games) 57-65 record
@ Pirates ( 3 games) 67-55 record
So as you can see the schedule stacks up very much in our favor and you have to believe that if the Braves can just survive this week then they’ll be in good shape to make a play off run.
Another thing to note is that you can’t underestimate the importance of division games. The Nationals are 9-4 against the Braves this season thus putting them 5 games ahead of us based on those 13 games alone. The total lead in the division for Washington is 6 games right now.
So in 13 head to head games the Nationals have built a 5 game lead over the Braves.
In the other 109 regular season games the Nationals have build a 1 game lead over the Braves.
To me that is a staggering statistic. People will look at the standings and see that Washington has a comfortable 6 game lead. But little do they know if they just dig a little bit deeper they’d see that the Braves have played them almost to a deck lock for the other 109 games played this season.
Davey Johnson said in his post game interview last night something to the affect of every game has it’s own weight and that he didn’t like to give certain games more value then other ones.
Although I see his point, I can’t completely agree. Yes every game is worth 1/162 in the standings on paper. But the way you gain separation in a division is by beating those teams head to head. And to me the evidence is clearly there.
If Davey Johnson’s team only managed to build a 1 game lead over a 109 game span but was able to gain 5 games in the standings over the course of just 13 games, I find it hard pressed to see that all games hold exactly the same weight.
The N.L East will likely come down to one of these things:
1) A key injury or shut down of Strasburg
2) Head to head match ups (5 left)
3) A costly losing streak (4 games or more)
As bleak as the division looks now for the Braves after last nights loss it’s impossible for me to over look the lessons that we learned last year. No lead is safe. A lot of people like to talk about how the Braves blew a 10.5 game lead they held at the end of August. To me that wasn’t the memory that holds strongest in my mind.
To me it was being up 3 games with 5 to play and not making it into the post season. The Braves went 0-5 during that span and the Cardinals went 4-1. The Braves actually lost 4 games in the last 5 that were played and that’s how quickly things can turn. If we don’t learn from history we’re doomed to repeat it. So any team that feels they’re above a late season slump better think twice.
By: Bob McVinua